US Coins

Mint, NGC dash reports of Baseball gold coin error

Image above left from the U.S. Mint shows the reverse of a properly struck Proof 2014-W Baseball gold coin bearing the W Mint mark. The blurred image at right is one of several posted online that started collectors buzzing that examples might exist without the Mint mark.

Image above left, courtesy of U.S. Mint; image above right, courtesy of MintNewsBlog.com.

U.S. Mint officials knew before a Proof 2014-W National Baseball Hall of Fame gold $5 half eagle was received by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. for certification that the piece could not be a missing Mint mark error as some collectors suspected.

The possibility of a missing Mint mark error surfaced online April 14 when a collector posted on MintNewsBlog.com somewhat blurry images of the Proof gold $5 coin he had received from the Mint. According to the collector, the reverse showed no sign of a W Mint mark. The quality of the images, however, did not permit independent verification of the collector’s findings.

The report fueled speculation online about whether the U.S. Mint had released an error version of the gold coin. Coin World quickly queried the Mint on the subject.

Responding April 15 to Coin World’s inquiry of the day before, U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said by email, “An examination of all 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame $5 Gold coins’ dies (proof and uncirculated) reveals that all have W mint marks, and all first and last strikes of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame $5 Gold Coins have W mint marks.”

White emphasized April 22 that the examination comprised all dies used to date for production as well as unused working dies.

White did not disclose the total number of Proof and Uncirculated $5 gold obverse and reverse dies manufactured for coin production.

NGC officials confirmed April 21 that the Proof $5 gold Baseball commemorative coin the grading service had received April 18 for examination, attribution and grading as a missing Mint mark error does bear the W Mint mark for the West Point Mint in the proper location on the coin’s convex reverse.

The Mint mark appears in the lower left field to the left of the baseball stitches.

The coin was subsequently graded NGC Proof 70 Ultra Cameo, according to the grading service.

What’s the possibility?

The images posted April 14 on MintNewsBlog.com show the coin still in the U.S. Mint’s plastic capsule in which the coin had been secured for packaging at the West Point Mint.

The angle at which the images were taken obscures viewing of the Mint mark.

The only U.S. coin that is intentionally struck for circulation without a Mint mark is the Lincoln cent produced at the Philadelphia Mint. Various silver, gold and platinum bullion coins also do not bear Mint marks. All commemorative coins, collector versions of bullion coins and other collector and circulating coins bear Mint marks.

Current Mint technology pretty much precludes production of U.S. coins without Mint marks, because the Mint mark is added at an early stage of the die production process. The development of tooling culminating in production dies has eliminated some separate steps employed in previous years.

Until 1990 and 1991, Mint marks were hammer punched into the individual working or production dies; this hands-on approach resulted in many Mint mark varieties, and a few dies were placed into use without the intended Mint marks. 

To eliminate hand punching of Mint marks, for a brief period in the early 1990s, the Mint transitioned to placing the Mint mark on the plaster model used in the production of hubs and dies, or on some of the earliest tooling for hubs and dies.

Now, according to White, “the original CNC [Computer Numerical Control] master hub (formerly called the reduction) is machined with the Mint mark and all initials at the start of the tooling phase.”

The master hub is used to manufacture the master die in the negative, with the working hub subsequently executed in the positive. The working dies are produced using the working hub.

According to Steve Antonucci, branch manager for Digital Development, Research & Development for the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia, “The negative-facing work die exhibits the coin design incuse and in reverse so that when the planchet is struck, the finished coin depicts the coin designs in the positive.”

Still in production

Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communications, said April 22 that the West Point Mint was still producing the Baseball gold coins.

As of that time, the West Point Mint had used 16 of the concave Proof obverse dies and 23 of the convex reverse dies.

For the Uncirculated coins, 18 obverse dies and 25 reverse dies had been used.

Jurkowsky did not disclose the number of coins struck from each die before its retirement.

Both the Proof and Uncirculated gold $5 coins receive two strikes from a pair of dies.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins, including the silver dollars and copper-nickel clad half dollars, went on sale at noon Eastern Time March 27, amid early projections that a sellout was imminent.

U.S. Mint officials confirmed March 31 sufficient orders were received to exhaust the maximum combined mintage of 50,000 gold coins.

The tentative, unofficial split, until sales receive final auditing, is about 32,000 Proof gold coins and 18,000 Uncirculated gold coins.


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